Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Track short circuit, would like assistance troubleshooting

1842 views
32 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February, 2004
  • From: Central Ohio
  • 460 posts
Track short circuit, would like assistance troubleshooting
Posted by basementdweller on Thursday, August 22, 2019 11:30 PM

Building a new layout. All track and turnouts are installed and all rail connectors were soldered. At this point no bus wire or feeders have been installed yet. 

All Peco turnouts have jumper wires on underside to improve reliability, nothing new for me doing this. 

This evening I powered the track just to do test run, well I have a short circuit. i checked no tools etc were laying across the rails. None found. vacuumed the tracks in case of debris. 

my layout has no continious loop, just two independent RR's with an interchange. I disconnected the interchange track so now I have two independent railroads and both have their own short circuit. So clearly I have some type of track arrangement that is causing an issue. I see no reverse loop, double checked and still don't see one. 

I checked several uninstalled turnouts with the jumper wires and none created a short circuit when checked. 

Before I start uninstalling all my track I was wondering if there is something else I am overlooking? I plan to disconnect the track leading into the yard and see if I end up with three independent areas each with their own short circuit. 

Thanks for any assistance. 

 

  • Member since
    August, 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 8,609 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Friday, August 23, 2019 1:19 AM

basementdweller
Before I start uninstalling all my track...

Did you use any gaps to isolate track sections?

Don't remove any track but think about isolating smaller sections of trackwork with gaps carefully cut in one or both rails (you don't mention DCC so if you have DC you can cut one gap in one rail and rely on the other rail as the common) or if using DCC you would isolate both rails to make a "power district" that can have a dedicated circuit breaker protecting each area of trackwork.

Back to those Peco turnouts. Are they a power-routing (Electrofrog) configuration? If so you need to have a rail gap anywhere there is a common rail between two frogs and all feeders have to come from the point side of the turnout.

 

https://www.dccguy.com/?p=6313

 

basementdweller
I checked several uninstalled turnouts with the jumper wires and none created a short circuit when checked.

Quite true, with the turnout sitting by itself. If you place them in a configuration such as in a passing siding where the frogs are joined together by a length of rail, then throw one turnout you will cause your short.

What changed since the last time you powered-up the layout? Are you sure you have feeder wires configured to feed the proper rail? As I was building my layout I placed small stick-on dots (Avery removable stickers) every few feet to designate rail A or B (N or S, whatever designation you want to use).

If you have DC are you going to have block control? You will need isolated rail for that so you will have to have rail gaps anyway. This will help isolate smaller sections of track electrically to make troubleshooting easier.

Good Luck, Ed

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 9,987 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Friday, August 23, 2019 2:32 AM

Hi basementdweller,

I'm assuming that you are using Electrofrog turnouts and I suspect that your frogs are not isolated. Study the link that Ed provided to see the proper arrangements:

https://www.dccguy.com/?p=6313

Dave

  • Member since
    February, 2004
  • From: Central Ohio
  • 460 posts
Posted by basementdweller on Friday, August 23, 2019 5:16 AM

Ed, at this stage the layout is neither DC or DCC as no wiring has been installed yet. The layout will be DCC. 

The turnouts are insulfrogs. Clearly I have some issue with opposing turnouts. I will study the link, thank you. 

  • Member since
    September, 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,155 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, August 23, 2019 5:33 AM

basementdweller

Ed, at this stage the layout is neither DC or DCC as no wiring has been installed yet. The layout will be DCC. 

The turnouts are insulfrogs. Clearly I have some issue with opposing turnouts. I will study the link, thank you.  

OK, good, you just answered the two most critical questions. You plan to operate the layout in DCC, and the Peco turnouts are Insulfrogs.

That said, I don't see the turnouts as the problem because Insulfrogs do not require gapping unless they are part of a reversing section.

Any chance that you can provide a track plan?

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    August, 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 8,609 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Friday, August 23, 2019 5:53 AM

 

Is it possible to slide a few of the rail joiners apart so you can isolate (electrically) sections of the layout (or track as laid so far) ?

Much easier to diagnose smaller segments than the whole shebang.

I don't use Peco turnouts. Is it necessary to add jumpers to maintain continuity?

Is it possible that you tested a turnout and it was OK on the bench but then after installing it the jumpers you installed possibly touched and are now shorted?

Just throwin' ideas out there.

Good Luck, Ed

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Sebring FL
  • 781 posts
Posted by floridaflyer on Friday, August 23, 2019 8:59 AM

Agree with Rich, without some sort of track plan we are guessing. My first action would be to isolate a small section of track close to where you attach the feeders and see if the short still occurs. If so the problem is in the small area of the feeder attachment and the power source. If not keep expanding the isolated section until the short occurs, when it occurs the problem is in the last section that was added to the isolated part of the layout.  

  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 18,439 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, August 23, 2019 9:33 AM

Never put down a lot of track without power.  You've put yourself into a situation where you don't know where the problem is.

Always have power available so you can stop work and test frequently.  An engine, too.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Sebring FL
  • 781 posts
Posted by floridaflyer on Friday, August 23, 2019 9:56 AM

Mr. B speaks the truth

  • Member since
    November, 2013
  • 810 posts
Posted by snjroy on Friday, August 23, 2019 2:22 PM

All good comments so far. Short circuits can result from a track design problem, or an execution problem. Seeing the track plan and how it is connected to the power source will help the experts here to see if it is a design problem, such as Y or return loop. My bet would be on the execution side - did you recheck all of your wiring to see if the wires are connected at the right place and not touching each other? Do you use a color coding system for your wiring? Breaking down the sections as suggested will help you find the offending section (process of elimination). But a review of your own wiring is probably worth a try before taking things apart. 

Simon

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 9,987 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Friday, August 23, 2019 3:53 PM

basementdweller
The turnouts are insulfrogs. Clearly I have some issue with opposing turnouts. I will study the link, thank you. 

Hi again basementdweller,

Forget what I said about the turnouts likely being the problem. I made the assumption that you were using Electrofrogs so nothing that I said applies. The coloured diagram in the link is for an Electrofrog turnout so the parts around the frog don't apply in your case, and you are already familiar with the jumper placements. I don't know enough about Insulfrog turnouts to comment on the possibility of them causing shorts. There was a reference in a previous post to shorts occurring if they are used in a reverse loop but that's not your case.

Testing your track as you go is a very smart move. You don't have to apply track power to do the testing. All you need is a DC buzzer, a 9 volt battery and a couple of test leads with alligator clips. Wire one leg of the buzzer to one side of the battery (it doesn't matter which). Wire the other leg of the buzzer to one test lead. Wire the other test lead to the other battery post.

When you are starting to lay track, all you do is connect the circuit across the rails of the first piece of track that you are laying and then proceed to lay more track. If you install a piece of track that causes a short the buzzer will sound immediately and you will know that something is wrong at the exact location where you are working. Leave the buzzer attached all the time.

In your case, the buzzer will come on and stay on until you eliminate the short. The noise could get tiring real fast, so you might want to use an automotive light bulb instead. The only advantage to the buzzer is that you don't have to look at it to know what's happening.

You can get a cheap buzzer and the test leads from any electronics supplier. Here is one example of a cheap buzzer:

https://www.digikey.ca/product-detail/en/db-unlimited/IE122312-6/2104-IE122312-6-ND/9990492

Note that the example is from the Canadian Digi Key site.

If you have a local electronics wholesaler they will likely have them on their shelves.

Also, to answer Ed's question, it is not necessary to put jumpers between the point rails and the closure rails and the closure rails and the stock rails on the Peco turnouts. However it does add a degree of reliability which can't hurt. I put jumpers on all of the 100 or so Atlas and Peco turnouts on our club's layout. It does take some time, and you have to remember to cut slots in the roadbed to allow the jumpers and points to move freely. Otherwise, the jumpers will jam the point rails. Many modellers have not installed the jumpers and have had no problems, but it has been suggested by very knowledgable modellers like John Allen that there have been enough incidents of electrical contact problems over the long term to justify doing the extra work.

Dave

  • Member since
    August, 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 8,609 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Friday, August 23, 2019 4:26 PM

hon30critter
In your case, the buzzer will come on and stay on until you eliminate the short. The noise could get tiring real fast, so you might want to use an automotive light bulb instead. The only advantage to the buzzer is that you don't have to look at it to know what's happening.

Good advice from Dave.

I might add that most low to mid-range Volt-Ohm-Amp meters have a continuity setting that will beep when there is a short (or continuity). Frequent checking with this "beeper" will indicate when (or if) a short occurs.

Of course, you also have all the other functions of a VOM which will prove invaluable for electrical diagnosis down the road.

https://tinyurl.com/yyr8cglg

Good Luck, Ed

  • Member since
    July, 2009
  • From: somerset, nj
  • 2,611 posts
Posted by gregc on Friday, August 23, 2019 4:44 PM

gmpullman
Is it possible to slide a few of the rail joiners apart so you can isolate (electrically) sections of the layout (or track as laid so far) ?

if your desperate, try to isolate half of the layout from the other half and see which has the short.   Then isolate half of the half until you find the short.

of course, there may be multiple shorts.

and of course it would be nice if the layout were designed with this in mind.   So you may have to cut bus wires and reconnect them later.

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 18,439 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, August 23, 2019 9:29 PM

Have you brought up the power pack or DCC system with no track connected?

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    February, 2004
  • From: Central Ohio
  • 460 posts
Posted by basementdweller on Friday, August 23, 2019 9:37 PM

I really appreciate all the comment, thanks. Let me respond to one or two. 

Currently there are no feeders and no buss so therefore no wires have been crossed. 

Not sure I can post a track plan, but I was cautious to make sure I had no reversing sections, no Y's or any other type of section that allows a locomotive to turn around. 

so far trouble shooting has involved me dividing the layout into two seperate sections and both independent sections have a short. 

I made a mock up between two facing turnouts to create a passing siding and used jumper wires to connect them, no short regardless of turnout position. To me this confirms that insulfrog's do not need to be gapped because the frog is already insulated. 

I now install jumper wires on the Peco's because over the years I have had a few where the tabs loose contact. Builds in reliability. 

 i will continue to divide the layout into smaller sections and go from there.

thanks again everyone.

  • Member since
    February, 2004
  • From: Central Ohio
  • 460 posts
Posted by basementdweller on Friday, August 23, 2019 9:40 PM

Mr B. My continuity meter shows the short. I wish now I had checked more frequently as I was building. 

 

  • Member since
    September, 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,155 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, August 24, 2019 5:00 AM

basementdweller

Mr B. My continuity meter shows the short. I wish now I had checked more frequently as I was building.  

How does a continuity meter show a short? A continuity test simply establishes whether there is an electrical path between two points.

Without a track plan to look at, this is one tough problem. I am trying to visualize a layout with no wiring, no bus, no feeders, no reversing sections or loops. You connect a single pair of wires from the DCC command station, and a short occurs.

When you connect and apply power, is the command station indicating a short? Is there a locomotive somehere on the layout during this test? This is all very weird.

Rich

 

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    August, 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 8,609 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, August 24, 2019 5:32 AM

richhotrain
How does a continuity meter show a short? A continuity test simply establishes whether there is an electrical path between two points.

Um, place a probe on rail A, place the second probe on rail B.

No beep, no short.

Lay a 25¢ coin across rail A and B. The meter beeps, you have a short.

That's how I use the meter anyway.

They are extremely helpful when trying to sort out which side of a wheel/axle is insulated or is your locomotive frame in contact with the left or right rail. 

Checking motor/brush isolation before wiring a locomotive for a decoder is another handy use for a beeping continuity meter.

Lots of uses. I also use a continuity meter when wiring up power to a frog using the SPDT switch on a switch machine. I want to be sure the points leading to the frog are at the same continuity that the electrical switch is providing from the common. The meter tells me when I have it correctly wired, no guessing.

Good Luck, Ed

  • Member since
    September, 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,155 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, August 24, 2019 5:42 AM

gmpullman
 
richhotrain
How does a continuity meter show a short? A continuity test simply establishes whether there is an electrical path between two points. 

Um, place a probe on rail A, place the second probe on rail B.

No beep, no short.

LOL.

OK, I deserved that. What I meant to say is that a continuity test is not going to pinpoint the short on that layout. Where is the short?

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    February, 2004
  • From: Central Ohio
  • 460 posts
Posted by basementdweller on Saturday, August 24, 2019 5:45 AM

Rich, you are correct that I hooked up two wires from my DCC system directly to the rails to test the track. It indicated a short circuit. My multimeter shows continuity between rail A and rail B. 

There has to be a track geometry issue but I had though that insulfrog turnouts avoided that issue. Maybe not. 

As always time is an issue when it come to reading these posts and getting to apply it to the RR. I hope to get a bit of time over the weekend and do some trouble shooting. 

Just to mention, I have visually inspected the track and vacuumed the track for any debris that may have caused the issue. I will run a strong magnet over it too. Who knows. Then I will start dividing the layout to smaller areas. 

Thanks again. 

  • Member since
    September, 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,155 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, August 24, 2019 5:51 AM

basementdweller

Rich, you are correct that I hooked up two wires from my DCC system directly to the rails to test the track. It indicated a short circuit. My multimeter shows continuity between rail A and rail B. 

There has to be a track geometry issue but I had though that insulfrog turnouts avoided that issue. Maybe not. 

As always time is an issue when it come to reading these posts and getting to apply it to the RR. I hope to get a bit of time over the weekend and do some trouble shooting. 

Just to mention, I have visually inspected the track and vacuumed the track for any debris that may have caused the issue. I will run a strong magnet over it too. Who knows. Then I will start dividing the layout to smaller areas. 

Thanks again.  

Is there any way you can post a track plan or email one of us a copy so we can post it?

And, are you absolutely certain those Peco turnouts are Insulfrogs, not Electrofrogs?

As I say, if the layout is simply constructed of flex track with Insulfrog turnouts and there are no reversing sections or loops, no bus, and no feeders, it would be pretty difficult to create a short. Not impossible, but pretty difficult.

Maybe without a track plan that is the way to analyze the problem. Try to imagine such a scenario in which a short would occur.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    July, 2009
  • From: somerset, nj
  • 2,611 posts
Posted by gregc on Saturday, August 24, 2019 8:30 AM

basementdweller
so far trouble shooting has involved me dividing the layout into two seperate sections and both independent sections have a short. 

if there appear to be a multitude of shorts, a different tack is to just find one short to better understand the cause.   Once you understand the cause, you can make changes w/o locating each and every short.

this is more than desperate.   It may make sense to make sure there isn't a short on some small isolated section of track that you're pretty sure doesn't have a short -- a length of straight track.   

Then add another section with a single turnout and check for a short.   try the turnout in both positions. 

repeat

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 18,439 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Saturday, August 24, 2019 9:28 AM

As I used to say at work finding software bugs when people would ask me how I recognized the problem, "Every mistake I find is one I've made myself many times before."

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    February, 2004
  • From: Central Ohio
  • 460 posts
Posted by basementdweller on Saturday, August 24, 2019 4:51 PM

All comments are appreciated. I plan to do some checks, if I have no luck then I will get a track plan posted. 

sol
  • Member since
    January, 2007
  • 7 posts
Posted by sol on Saturday, August 24, 2019 5:57 PM

I have used both Electro & Insul frogs turnouts from Peco & I have never heard of bonding needed under Insulfrog.  Yes, one can add switches to bond blades to stock rails so the tabs on the Code 100 turnouts ( which are no longer on the new versions) are electrically paralleled.

 

Ron

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: North Dakota
  • 8,332 posts
Posted by BroadwayLion on Sunday, August 25, 2019 3:06 PM

Work fro the power supply forward.

Try test leads directly from the power supply to a light bulb or a locomotive.

If short stop and fix else apply wires to Power Pack  to sing length of track

TEST > If short replace the wires else test trach 1 without switchg

TEST > If short scratch head. Replace track

 

Etc.

 

But do it systematicall from oneplace to the next

 

The LION uses brads in wood instead of terminal blocks.

Once upon a time the shor was in two nails touching inside the wood.

 

Go Ahead... Find that one!

 

ROARING

 

The Route of the Broadway Lion The Largest Subway Layout in North Dakota.

Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

  • Member since
    February, 2004
  • From: Central Ohio
  • 460 posts
Posted by basementdweller on Sunday, August 25, 2019 8:34 PM

Problem resolved!!!!

thank you for everyone's assistance.  Had a bit of time this evening so I read these posts again and got to work. One comment stuck in my head "do I have a mix of electro frog and insulfrog" I thought not but it turns out I did. 

My switching layout has 33 turnouts, turns out I had 4 electrofrog's. I had no idea. I removed the electrofrog turnouts and now I have no short circuit between rail A and Rail B. 

Another evening I will replace these 4 turnouts and press on with bus wiring and feeders, checking as I go! 

I may still get that track plan up on here just for some feedback. My time is limited and so I try to focus on working on the layout. 

  • Member since
    July, 2008
  • 1,180 posts
Posted by mfm37 on Sunday, August 25, 2019 8:58 PM

You could just isolate the frogs and keep the electro's.

Martin Myers

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 26,336 posts
Posted by rrinker on Sunday, August 25, 2019 9:21 PM

 All you have too do is put insulated joiners oon the two center diverging rails. All 4 diverging rails if you want belts and suspenders. And then the Electroofrogs will be just fine, no shorts. You just can't have power feeds on the frog side - thus the insulated joiners. Power feeds past the insulated joiners are fine.

                              --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    September, 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 18,155 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, August 25, 2019 11:10 PM

basementdweller

Problem resolved!!!!

thank you for everyone's assistance.  Had a bit of time this evening so I read these posts again and got to work. One comment stuck in my head "do I have a mix of electro frog and insulfrog" I thought not but it turns out I did. 

Why you little ...   Super Angry

Just kidding. Glad you persisted and found the problem.

Rich

Alton Junction

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!